Travel Photography Subjects: Transportation

Travel Photography Subjects: Transportation

taxi-marrakech This post is number ten of twenty one subjects that will help you focus when on your next journey and you wish to bring back a well rounded story of where you were.  If you’re just going on vacation and only want pictures of yourself by the pool sipping boat drinks, then you can probably skip this one.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and ask thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.

Getting from here to there. Transportation.  This Travel Photography Subject is easy because you will be directly involved, one way or the other, as you travel.   From the planes that take you over vast oceans, to the trains, taxis, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, chicken buses, long boats, barges…..I think you get the picture.  Transportation is the backbones of travel, and unless you’re hoofing it on foot, you’ll be using some form of transportation from the moment you leave your house.

The trick is to get creative with your photos of transportation.  While standard, representation shots of the side of the bus you rode from Nairobi to Arusha will do, what’s another way to tell the story?  Do you have shots of what it’s like inside, packed three to a seat? What about luggage storage or the exhaust billowing out the tailpipe?  And along the way, do you make any stops and what’s the activity around the bus like?  The driver and the money handler, what’s their part in the travels?

Take a look at not only the aesthetics of your mode of transportation, but also how it fits in with the overall culture.  In some places taxis are everywhere and run by highly organized groups.  Driver’s tend to know each other and may be more cooperative.  In others locations it’s far more adversarial.  You’ll get a flavor for the culture pretty quickly.  Try to incorporate that into your representation of the mode you choose.

Some people also find a certain fascination with one particular mode, especially when it’s something new.  If this is you, run with it!  Maybe it’s rickshaws in Asia.  For instance, you could collect shots of all the different decorations and colorings.  Or document the different drivers you see.  If your travels are centered in one country, maybe decsribe how the rickshaws change from town to town or region to region (if they do at all).  Expanding out from there, how do the rickshaws in Vietnam compare to those in Nepal?  Or Africa?

Also take a look at not just human transport, but the transportation of goods.  In some areas, half the wheels on the ground are carrying commerce from here to there.  Carts full of vegetables, fruit or TVs.  Lories packed beyond capacity with cotton from the fields.  Mules, oxen, yaks and horses packing rice, crates and climbers expedition gear to the Himalayas.  It’s all fodder for the overall category of transportation.

What have been your experiences shooting Transportation during your travels? Post a photo or link in the section below and include a bit of background information.


Previous articles in the Travel Photography Subjects series include Water, Old People, Young People, Religion, Sports, Socializing, Icons, Rich and Poor.  Be sure to subscribe to this site to receive the other 15 subjects as they are posted!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • angad singh August 12, 2010 07:04 pm

    Road Transport in BKK

  • mikko August 11, 2010 08:32 pm

    Lonesome boat at the dock of San Sebastian in the Basque Country:

  • soumya August 11, 2010 06:31 am

    After every Timbers’ soccer game, kells (a bar in portland) sends its bus out to pick up the fans and take them to the bar

  • soumya August 11, 2010 06:29 am

    After every Timbers' soccer game, kells (a bar in portland) sends its bus out to pick up the fans and take them to the bar

  • angad singh August 8, 2010 11:08 pm

    As I travelled down the river in Bangkok I saw a number of these long tailed boats go by at high speeds...I just had to pan them :) It wasnt easy to pan from a movie boat but I managed :)

  • Barbara Edwards August 5, 2010 12:00 am

    [eimg link='' title='General Santos Street' url='']

    Colorful street in General Santos City in the southern Philippines

  • Barbara Edwards August 4, 2010 11:58 pm

    colorful street in General Santos City in the southern Philippines

  • kirpi August 2, 2010 10:04 am

    Yes, Bob is right!
    And here "trains" includes London Underground as well.
    Not only such a law seems odd (and frankly excessive) to many honest, casual turists, but also it is sometimes enforced in a *very* aggressive way.
    Just be careful.

  • Dave August 1, 2010 06:15 pm

    Hi all, I haven't had much travel experience but the bit I've done has been fairly exotic from my normal routine.


    The Nile


  • Bob Bevan Smith July 31, 2010 08:40 pm

    You need to be aware that photographing trains is against the law in many countries. In the UK there have been many recent cases of photographers being dealt to by the Police, even when they are in a public place. France also has aggressive laws about photographing trains.

  • Jason Collin Photography July 31, 2010 04:36 am

    Around the Chigasaki Beach area in Yokohama, Japan surfers have these bars attached to their bicycles making for very creative surfing transportation:

  • Kunal Bhatia July 31, 2010 04:35 am

    [eimg url='' title='2010-06-30.JPG']

    The slow and the fast. On a Sunday morning in South Mumbai's business district. Original post here.

  • kirpi July 30, 2010 05:05 pm

    There is a closely related and precious hint on the matter: when travelling do pay close attention to, and spend some time around, train and bus stations, airports, piers crowded with commuters, as well as any other place where local people gather as the move.
    You will find this is one of the places to shoot people: businesmen, lovers, young and old, human samples of any kind, all concentrated in one place.
    You will get a lot of different shots in short while.

  • Indira July 30, 2010 03:08 pm

    Joy in the midst of chaos

  • Johan July 30, 2010 09:01 am

    [eimg url='' title='20.jpg']

    Koh Chang, Thailand. View from our bungalow, which was on poles in the water.

  • Martin Soler Photography July 30, 2010 07:45 am

    Am off to south of France this coming week and am looking out for some ideas.
    Here's my last "travel" related photo. The Peugeot 203 parked in Paris.

  • MyRideisMe July 30, 2010 06:59 am

    All I ever shoot is transportation! I cover alot of car shows and one of my favorites is the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona towards the end of January every year. I borrowed a fisheye lens and had some fun with it. It's funny how the pictures were either kinda-cool and maybe a little more artsy than I normally take or just terrible! I hope this is one of the not-terrible shots!
    [eimg url='' title='Atomic_punk-in-suede-palace.jpg']

    The entire gallery is here:

  • Jane July 30, 2010 04:59 am

    This was a random shot as we crossed the road in NYC, but certainly shows the only real road transport in Manhattan.

  • kaye July 30, 2010 04:47 am

    sorry, you will need to remove /img in order to see pic. Seems I can't do it after the fact.

  • kaye July 30, 2010 04:43 am

    Took this on a trip to Bali. After reading this article I'm sorry I didn't take more of the odd transportation shots available (hope this works)[/img]

  • K July 30, 2010 03:44 am

    Thank you. Great post.

  • Indira July 30, 2010 02:43 am

    This picture shows joy in the midst of chaos.

  • bunsongpayat July 29, 2010 05:02 pm

    You can check the transportation of early vietnam here. This is still use in tourist places. =)

    Boatman waiting for tourists
    Number of Boats

  • Sealdi July 29, 2010 04:48 pm

    This is our driver's hand as we rode a 4x4 truck up to a volcano crater.

  • Damon Chung July 29, 2010 01:40 pm

    Vietnam, usually an average of 2 - 3 people on a scooter.

    3 kids on a scooter

    man on a scooter

  • PaTea July 29, 2010 08:16 am

    Retro bicycle in Finland:

    Just out of curiosity, would you consider escalators at one extreme of transportation?

  • Jen Jou July 29, 2010 08:04 am

    [eimg link='' title='marrakech-04' url='']

    from my recent visit to marrakech 1 week ago

  • Phil Marion July 29, 2010 07:12 am

    In the congested ancient city of Varanasi a taxi boat is needed to cross the Ganges. They can also be hired for site seeing or even as transporation along the river bank.

    [eimg link='' title='Ganges River rush hour- Varanasi' url='']

  • Phil Marion July 29, 2010 07:09 am

    In Xochimilco, Mexico City a fun way to while the time away is to join locals in getting around by a trajinera boats (shown here parked one early morning)
    [eimg link='' title='trajinera boats - Xochimilco, Mexico City' url='']

  • Phil Marion July 29, 2010 07:03 am

    In congested urban areas like Rome, the fastest and cheapest way for locals to get around is on a scooter/Vespa:
    [eimg link='' title='motorcycle momma - Rome' url='']

  • Phil Marion July 29, 2010 06:23 am

    In urban areas of Asia, the tuktuk is the cheapest and quickest way to cover short distances:
    [eimg link='' title='red light - Delhi traffic' url='']

  • chris July 29, 2010 03:41 am

    The following picture reminds me best of the bustling streets of Tokyo at night. Taken on my first trip to Japan this March.

  • Amir Paz July 29, 2010 03:08 am

    Bansko Bulgaria, felt like traveling back in time....

    it was a very interesting experience...


  • Torunn Bjøreid July 29, 2010 02:18 am

    From a day with the steam locomotive Puffing Billy from Belgrave to Gembrook in Victoria Australia jaunary 2010.

    And the free tram Ciry Circle in Melbourne Australia

  • Jason Collin Photography July 29, 2010 01:11 am

    Near Chigasaki Beach in Japan surfers transport their surboards via bicycle using a very simple but clever system:

    [eimg link='' title='Have board, will travel -- surfboard on bicycle' url='']

  • Tony Page July 28, 2010 10:46 pm

    I really think you should give that first paragraph "This post is number X of twenty one subjects that will help you focus when on your next journey ... present that in the best light possible" a rest and get straight into your main content. It makes all your excerpts look the same, and doesn't add to what you're saying. Why not involve your readers in the subject of your piece from the start, instead of making them wade through this preamble before getting to it?
    Just my 2 cents worth,

  • Jason July 28, 2010 08:59 pm

    This is my favourite mode of transportation:
    From 2010-05-24

    Some Cuban transportation:

    From cuba 2007

    From cuba 2007

    From cuba 2007

    From cuba 2007

  • Shree July 28, 2010 06:36 pm

  • VitaminD July 28, 2010 06:19 pm

    Let's try this again...

    I found this while wandering around downtown Copenhagen. Bikes, of course, are ubiquitous, but Tesla Roadsters are not … yet.
    [eimg link='' title='Extreme Transportations' url='']

    I’m not sure how common this is, but it was my first experience with multimodal public transportation. I didn’t get to find out if there were any bikes onboard the bus.
    [eimg link='' title='Multimode' url='']

  • Daniele July 28, 2010 05:27 pm

    [eimg link='' title='Horses' url='']

  • Daniele July 28, 2010 05:26 pm

    Here mine

  • VitaminD July 28, 2010 05:17 pm

    I'm not sure how common this is, but it was my first experience with multimodal transportation. I didn't get to find out if there were any bikes onboard the bus.

  • VitaminD July 28, 2010 05:01 pm

    I found this while wandering around downtown Copenhagen. Bikes, of course, are ubiquitous, but Tesla Roadsters are not ... yet.

  • Jen Jou July 28, 2010 04:35 pm

    Recently visited marrakech where motorbikes going at speed are the main mode of transport, frantically winding through roads big and small with anything from one lone person on them to whole families!

    [eimg link='' title='marrakech-04' url='']

  • antonio July 28, 2010 04:07 pm

    I very like urban photography, so transportation is always a good subject for me. I love trains and metros (including stations and people) but be careful while choosing shutter speed, aperture and ISO!

  • Shree July 28, 2010 03:54 pm

    [eimg link='' title='Enroute Shimla' url='']

  • Shree July 28, 2010 03:50 pm

    Public transport (sort of) on the NH between Delhi and Shimla (India)

    (This is the right link)

    [eimg link='' title='Enroute Shimla' url='']

  • Shree July 28, 2010 03:36 pm

    Public transport (sort of) on the NH between Delhi and Shimla (India)

  • Scott July 28, 2010 01:09 pm

    In Burkina Faso, Scooters outnumber Cars by a huge margn:

  • Scott July 28, 2010 01:07 pm

    In Mauritania, the number way to move stuff is the Donkey. There are thousands of them:

  • Scott July 28, 2010 01:06 pm

    The Paris Metro, a must-see aspect of the city:

  • July de Leon July 28, 2010 11:14 am

    idle moment at the airport while waiting for boarding...

  • Mei Teng July 28, 2010 10:53 am

    I always include transportation in my travel photos. I enjoy photographing people travelling on motorcycles, tuk-tuks, boats etc.

  • David July 28, 2010 09:58 am

    sorry mean this one

  • David July 28, 2010 09:57 am

    From my trip from peru where we had to catch a train... a transportation of sorts

  • Santosh July 28, 2010 06:34 am

    The Segway Tour of Washington D.C.... I think it can be classified as transportation...

  • Paul July 28, 2010 06:22 am

    I got grief from Metro Transit for using a not-yet-completed Light rail station as a platform to photograph trains and buses going by, but I did get some good shots...

    [eimg link='' title='Hiawatha Light Rain train' url='']

  • Greg July 28, 2010 06:21 am

    Transportation may be one of my favorite things to photograph. It's so varied from country to country and really gives you a slice of local life along with getting around.

    I've been working on a few photos from riding the rails in Sri Lanka recently...

  • Melody Mainville July 28, 2010 06:03 am

    [eimg link='' title='trolly 001' url='']

  • Ilan (@ilanbr) July 28, 2010 05:25 am

    I hope this is a creative enough example.
    Was taken during my last trip to NYC (I live in Israel).

    Was really late and it was kind of sweet to see this family, all so tired and hanging on each other for support.